The Department of Philosophy offers courses intended to acquaint students with philosophical methods, systems, and problems, as well as supply a philosophical background for graduate study in philosophy or related areas. Courses in religious studies are intended to acquaint students with the history and the beliefs of the major religions of the world. Programs in the department lead to a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in philosophy. Minors are offered in philosophy and religious studies.
The word "philosophy" comes from two Greek words, phileo (love or friend) and sophia (wisdom), and literally means a love of wisdom. For the ancient Greeks, the philosopher
was regarded as one who loved wisdom for its own sake. Throughout the history of philosophy
(which is dated back to the sixth century B.C.) philosophers have been concerned with
such questions as the nature of virtue, the meaning of existence, the nature of human
knowledge, the nature of reality, cosmology (or what we might now call astronomy or
astrophysics), the essence of nature (or what we now call physics), the nature of
Philosophy was traditionally called the Queen of the Sciences. One reason for this title was that philosophy sought the underlying reasons and assumptions of many other disciplines and in many cases actually gave rise to new branches of study. For example, up until the late nineteenth century what is now called physical science was a branch of philosophy called natural philosophy. What we now call political science was traditionally called political philosophy. And, perhaps surprisingly, even what is now called psychology was a branch of philosophy. In fact, it wasn't until fairly late in the twentieth century that psychology departments in some major Universities became separate from philosophy departments.
More generally, philosophy is the attempt to evaluate critically our most basic assumptions and the reasons or justifications for these assumptions. If this sounds terribly complex and sophisticated, it is and it isn't. It's complex and sophisticated only in terms of the responses that philosophers have given to various questions. But the actual practice of philosophy begins, as the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said, with a sense of wonder. The simplicity of this wonder is the simplicity of the questions we all asked as children: "Why?", "What is God like?", "Does the universe come to an end?", "Is it okay for three people to be selfish, but not one?", etc. At this very elementary level, we all philosophize, insofar as we wonder and ask questions.
If you would like to make a financial contribution to the Philosophy Department's Foundation Account, you can do so on the College of Liberal Arts Giving Page.